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County Executive

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during a press event. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

As the new year progresses, the Suffolk County government is facing a plethora of changes, with the biggest arguably being the transition of county executive from Steve Bellone (D) to Ed Romaine (R).

Romaine, who served as the Town of Brookhaven supervisor for over 10 years after winning a special election in 2012, won the race for county executive over Dave Calone (D) with 57% of the vote. The former town supervisor was sworn into office on New Year’s Day, marking the first time a Republican will serve as Suffolk County executive in 20 years.

Steve Bellone served as county Executive from 2012 to 2023. Due to being term limited, Bellone could not seek reelection this year. [See “Bellone signs bill to strengthen term limits in Suffolk County,” TBR News Media website, July 14, 2022.]

During his farewell speech Dec. 21, Bellone thanked members of his staff and administration and recounted various achievements, including the handling of superstorms, confronting corruption in the county’s law enforcement and more.

“When we came into office, we faced the greatest financial crisis in history, more than $500 million accumulated deficit,” Bellone said during his speech. “And after years of making the difficult but necessary choices, we will leave office with this county in the best financial condition in its history, with more than $1 billion in reserves,” he said, thanking the budget office.

Bellone discussed his administration’s handling of Suffolk County’s water quality crisis, saying, “With an amazing water quality team, we created innovative programs, brought stakeholders together and developed an advanced blueprint for solving the water quality crisis over the next generation,” while giving special thanks to Deputy Suffolk County Executive Peter Scully and Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning Commissioner Sarah Lansdale. 

Bellone was not immune from criticism on both sides of the aisle. Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman and Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer was critical of Bellone throughout his tenure as executive.

“As the curtain falls on Bellone’s 12-year term, Suffolk County is left grappling with the consequences of a legacy marked by broken promises, ineffective leadership and a failure to address critical issues facing Suffolk County,” Schaffer said in a statement.

“The time for accountability and a reevaluation of priorities in Suffolk County’s leadership is long overdue,” he added. Additionally, Schaffer is hopeful that Romaine will meet the county’s priorities and needs “based on his past experience and accomplishments.”

Not everyone shared Schaffer’s sentiments. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who on Dec. 31 completed her final term as the county’s legislator for District 6, reflected on Bellone’s time as executive, saying that working with Bellone had “been incredibly productive for the residents here in Suffolk County.”

One major issue on which Anker praised Bellone’s leadership was the opioid crisis. Suffolk was the first county in New York to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors, which resulted in settlements that will have the county receiving around $200 million over two decades to help address the ongoing crisis.

“That was Steve’s leadership in providing direction and in a positive way trying to get through this incredibly challenging time of this addiction epidemic,” Anker said.

Bellone has yet to announce any future plans in his political career.

Suffolk County executive Ed Romaine and family at his inauguration ceremony at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School on Jan. 1. Photos courtesy Ed Romaine’s Office

After 12 years, Suffolk County will see a new face in the executive seat, Ed Romaine, a Republican, the first for his party in two decades. He replaces term-limited Steve Bellone (D).

Romaine was sworn in Jan. 1 at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School, joined by family and fellow county officials. As well as state officials, also in attendance was U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who proclaimed the day as “great” for Suffolk County.

Before the podium stood the new county executive as he delivered a speech detailing his thoughts on the upcoming term. 

“As I take this job, I know there will be more problems than solutions, more to be done than what has been done, more quest than conquest,” Romaine said. “Each [new] generation stands on the shoulders of those who have come before us, as I do. So our path must be based on the experiences of past administrations, while being willing to find our own path and reinvent county government.” 

Prior to assuming his new post, Romaine stood as the Town of Brookhaven supervisor since 2012, where he advocated for environmental and quality of life issues while maintaining a focus on strengthening Brookhaven’s finances, a focal point to be continued in his new role. Romaine served as a Suffolk County legislator from 1986-89, before becoming county clerk from 1990 through 2005. 

“One of my top priorities will be strengthening county finances and making our budget structurally balanced,” Romaine said. 

In his inaugural speech, Romaine spoke to key issues at the forefront of his campaign. Placing special emphasis on cybersecurity, improving child protective services, cleaning off surface and groundwaters, securing funding for sewage and alternative denitrification systems, and preserving open space and farmland to prevent overdevelopment.

“This administration will be rooted in the values and traditions of hard work, personal initiative and accountability so we can build a future that is safe and more affordable, and provides hope and opportunity to our citizens,” Romaine said. “As we cast new eyes on old problems, I will seek to reorganize our county government to consolidate services wherever we can to improve efficiency, and to make this government far more cost effective than it has been.”

David Calone, left, with state Assemblyman Steve Englebright. The assemblyman is one of the local leaders who encouraged Calone to run for county executive. Photos from Calone’s campaign

A former congressional primary candidate is aiming for Suffolk County’s executive seat.

Last week, Setauket’s David Calone announced his intention to run for county executive on the Democratic ticket in 2023. Due to term limits, Steve Bellone (D) will not be running.

“I would bring a lot of different perspectives and a lot of backgrounds to the regional leadership of the county executive position,” Calone said in a phone interview. 

Running for the office is something he has been thinking about for a few months. The candidate said he became more committed to his goal after conversations with many who provided strong moral support, such as John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook).

Without any formal fundraisers, Calone has already raised nearly a million dollars for his campaign, he said.

Currently, Calone, a former federal and state prosecutor, is the only one who has thrown his hat in the ring, but candidates have until early next year to submit their petitions. If other candidates decide to run for county executive on the Democratic ticket, a primary would be held.

The candidate said he wanted to start campaigning early because Suffolk County is a vast area to cover.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with people across Suffolk County over this next year and hearing their ideas and issues, and then we can work to solve those challenges,” he said. 

When he ran in the Democratic primary for Congress in 2016 in the 1st Congressional District, he lost to former Town of Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst by a slim margin of slightly more than 300 votes. He said from the experience he learned how to run an extensive campaign.

“I was able to learn about all the issues affecting people across Suffolk County,” he said. “Many issues are common across the whole area, but there were also some very specific local issues,” adding while some may worry about environmental issues, in contrast others are trying to make ends meet.

Background

Calone grew up in Mount Sinai and graduated from Port Jefferson high school. He went on to achieve his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his law degree from Harvard. He and his wife, Presbyterian minister Kate Jones Calone, have three children and moved to Setauket 10 years ago when Jones Calone joined Setauket Presbyterian Church.

While a federal prosecutor, his focus was terrorism and international corporate fraud. As a state prosecutor, he fought health care fraud, and won a case that, at the time, was one of the biggest returns of taxpayer money — more than $70 million, according to him.

He is president and CEO of Jove Equity Partners LLC, which helps to start companies and works with owners to build their businesses.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with people across Suffolk County over this next year and hearing their ideas and issues, and then we can work to solve those challenges.”

— David Calone

County issues

Calone listed protecting the environment, improving transportation and economic development among his biggest concerns.

Working in the private sector and being involved in various businesses for more than 15 years, he said experience has provided him with a good deal of knowledge regarding economic development.

The candidate said he believes in supporting small businesses and providing workforce development to make sure “people get the skills they need for the next generation of jobs.”

“I think it is going to be critically important, too, because we live in a very high cost area,” he said. “We need to have people getting good paying jobs to be able to afford to live here.”

His company also created the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund to help launch businesses coming out of local research labs, which in turn creates local jobs.

As board chair of Patriot Boot Camp, which was recently acquired by Disabled American Veterans, Calone has played a part in helping veterans, active military members and their spouses start their own businesses. He said while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs holds job fairs, they don’t focus on entrepreneurship, which many military members may be well suited for due to being disciplined and hardworking

He also feels there are different ways to bring town governments together to address similar problems.

When he was chair for eight years of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, the group worked on streamlining solar panel permits throughout the county as each town had a different set of rules, which caused headaches for solar panel companies. The towns came together and agreed on one form, which made the process more streamlined, and the committee received the National Association of Counties 2012 National Achievement Award for the effort.

Calone said he would also like to improve transportation in the county, pointing out that many of the buses are empty or nearly empty and therefore a waste of fuel. He said he would like to see the pilot program that county Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) started in Southampton expanded to the whole county. When someone needs transportation, they use a cellphone app and smaller buses are used. He said requesting a bus would be similar to using Uber or Lyft and the service overall would be more efficient.

Regarding development in the county, he said developing near major roadways and travel hubs such as Ronkonkoma train station, as other elected officials have suggested in the past, makes sense. He also said it’s important to create more affordable housing.

“We need to have more housing that works for people at different times of their lives,” he said. “One of the key things is if young people move away, because they can’t find housing here, they’re more likely to stay away and not come back. But if we can keep them here because we have the kind of housing that they need, and the good-paying jobs that they need, they’re more likely to stay here and be the buyers of those single-family homes in the future.”

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and his wife Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset). Photo by Kyle Barr

Less than a month ago, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) was still debating whether he would run this year for Suffolk County executive. 

On Feb. 11, Kennedy stood shoulder to shoulder with other top Republican leaders to announce his running for the top county office.

“None of us forgets who we work for, and that’s the taxpayer,” Kennedy said. “We will stop the hemorrhaging, stop the bleeding. We will cut up the credit cards, start to pay our debts and bring life back to Suffolk County.”

John Kennedy Jr. (R) points to the county’s loss in bond rating. Photo by Kyle Barr

Kennedy, along with other county Republicans, has been consistent in attacking county Executive Steve Bellone (R) for the current state of the county’s finances, pointing to a drop in bond rating from A3 to Baa1 on the Moody Rating Scale since 2015. In a Jan. 31 article by TBR News Media, Eric Naughton, Suffolk’s budget director, said while the county’s bond rating has dropped, Kennedy was “overstating” the impact. He went on to say Moody’s, which gives the bond grades to municipalities, was only looking at the past and not the future. 

Kennedy has called for a 90-day top to bottom look at the county’s offices to see which ones can be pruned, which employees can be shuffled around and what belts can be tightened. He also called for an end to excessive spending, while cutting county fees and reducing the size of the county’s red light camera program. He said he was especially concerned with delays in payment to public employees and to contractors.

“We don’t pay our daycare providers on time, we don’t pay anybody on time,” the comptroller said. “We make them all our bank.”

John Jay LaValle, the Suffolk County Republican committee chairman, said during a phone interview the party is throwing its weight behind the current county comptroller. So far two other Republicans have announced their candidacy, including Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). LaValle said former police officer Larry Zacarese, who previously ran for Suffolk County sheriff in 2017, was also considering running on the Republican ticket. 

The Republican committee chairman said he would ask the current candidates to sit down and work out their differences, saying a primary could do damage to the party’s chance to win.

“If we do a primary, we give the executive seat to Bellone,” LaValle said.

Kennedy announced his plan to run for office at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, surrounded by U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford), along with many other elected Republicans. King ran again for his position alongside Kennedy in the 2018 electoral season.

“If we do a primary, we give the executive seat to Bellone.”

— John Jay Lavalle

“He ran us all into the ground — I’ve never seen a harder working campaigner,” King said.

Trotta said during a phone interview he would be willing to sit down with Kennedy and the Republican leadership, potentially to drop his candidacy if he agrees with what he hears.

“I welcome John Kennedy to the race, this is what democracy is all about, and no one knows more than John about what a financial mess the Bellone administration has created,” Trotta said.

Kennedy has worked in public office for years, working with current Brookhaven town supervisor Ed Romaine (R) when he was county clerk before being elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2004. He then later ran for and was elected to the Suffolk County comptroller position in 2014, boasting at the time he was vastly outspent by his opponent on the campaign trail.

Bellone’s office came out the gate swinging as Kennedy’s candidacy was announced.

“No one has opposed government reform or voted to increase spending and debt more than John Kennedy,” said Bellone spokesperson Jason Elan in a press release. 

“Under [Bellone’s] watch, I have seen red light cameras pop up over intersection after intersection, finding new ways to put their hands in their pockets,” Zeldin said during Kennedy’s campaign announcement.

Kennedy was also joined by his wife Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), who is running again this year for re-election. Both husband and wife said partially it took so long for him to announce his candidacy because of the concern one’s campaign fight could affect the other’s.

“It was a weighing process for both of us,” Legislator Kennedy said. “It’s about what he can do to make it better here so that everybody can afford to stay.”

John Kennedy Jr. (R) in a 2014 debate at TBR News Media. File Photo by Erika Karp

Hot off an electoral victory from last November, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) spoke to TBR News Media on a number of topics including a new county online tax filing system, the need for more cohesion on how towns send their tax rolls to his office and the potential of running for Suffolk County executive in 2019.

Online tax filing for delinquent taxes

Kennedy announced a new online filing service that will be available to Suffolk County residents after the tax season ends May 31.

‘With this new software component somebody is able to pay taxes on a Sunday.’

— John Kennedy Jr.

The program, called Citizen Self Service, will allow residents to plug in their bank account and routing numbers instead of sending the county a paper check to pay late or delayed property taxes. 

“With this new software component somebody is able to pay taxes on a Sunday,” Kennedy said. “[People who don’t use technology] are something we, in government, have to be mindful to accommodate.”

Each township’s receiver of taxes mails out tax bills mid-December and are payable to the tax receiver from Dec. 1 through May 31. If a resident fails to pay their taxes on time, they become delinquent and must pay their taxes to the county comptroller with an additional 5 percent interest plus 1 percent for each additional month the taxes are late. Payments received later than Aug. 31 are charged an additional tax sale advertising fee.

Kennedy said the existing pay-by-mail system will remain in place. The comptroller’s office also hosts a pay-by-phone system that allows property owners to talk to a representative and pay the bill that way, but Kennedy said that system is limited in the amount of time it takes and the business hours of the comptroller’s office. 

“We always must make an ability for someone to go ahead and transact,” he said.

Need for consistency between towns

The comptroller said there have been issues in the past with how municipalities report tax payments to his office. Suffolk County towns must give lists to the comptroller’s office on which bills were paid and those persons or businesses that are tax delinquent. The issue, Kennedy said, was no two towns currently use the same system to file these reports.

“I have 10 town tax receivers to deal with regarding their individual software systems for the record of tax collection,” he said. “We have to drive uniformity amongst the towns — one way or the other they will have to pass muster through us.”

Some towns are more accurate than others, according to Kennedy, as he named the Town of Islip as the most consistently accurate and on-time with its tax reports. Most municipalities collect approximately 90 to 95 percent of their areas property taxes. The comptroller’s office must then spend time going back and forth between the towns’ tax receiver offices to work out those discrepancies. 

Kennedy said he’s soon planning to implement, on a prototype “scrubbing system” that will find mistakes on each town’s end and flag them to be fixed before the documents reach the comptroller’s office. The system will first start on a preliminary basis with Brookhaven and Smithtown townships this year. 

Potential run for county executive

‘Do I think I could do a better job than the current county executive? Yes, my answer to that is yes.’

— John Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy is only a few months out from his Nov. 6 victory against Democratic challenger Jay Schneiderman for his second term in office. It was close as Kennedy received only 50.88 percent of the votes. 

Still, the comptroller is now weighing the pros and cons of running for the office of county executive.

“I am weighing the possibility, but I have not made any decision yet regarding it,” he said. “Do I think I could do a better job than the current county executive? Yes, my answer to that is yes.”

Part of his decision-making process is figuring if he would trust another person to take up the duties and responsibilities of Suffolk’s comptroller. 

“Do I know of anybody that comes to mind, anybody who would embrace the position that I have? I don’t know.” Kennedy said. “The thing that allows me to be aggressive, is the time I spent in the Legislature, the time I was minority leader, my experience in government and my experience as an attorney.”

Read TBR News Media next week for Kennedy’s take on Suffolk’s financial status, how it could impact residents and the upcoming police contract negotiations. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, on right, gets signatures from residents in support of the Community Protection Act outside Stop & Shop in Miller Place. Photo from County Executive Bellone's office

By Kevin Redding

In light of recent court rulings and pending lawsuits in favor of sex offenders, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is urging the New York State Legislature to follow in the county’s footsteps and get tough on sex criminals by passing legislation that gives the county authorization to uphold its strict laws against them.

On Feb. 11, Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) spoke with parents and residents in Miller Place about supporting and protecting the rules within the Suffolk County Community Protection Act — a private-public partnership law developed by Bellone, victims’ rights advocates like Parents for Megan’s Law and law enforcement agencies. It ensures sex offender registration and compliance, and protects residents and their children against sexual violence — much to the dismay of local sex offenders, who have been suing the county to try to put a stop to the act.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker talk to residents about the Community Protection Act. Photo from County Executive Bellone’s office

“We’re encouraging people to go on to our Facebook page and sign the online petition,” Bellone said. “We want to get as many signatures as we can to communicate to our partners in the state that this is a priority that we pass legislation that makes it clear Suffolk County has the right to continue doing what it’s doing to protect our community against sex offenders.”

While the county executive said Suffolk representative have been supportive of the law, which was put in place four years ago, he wanted to make sure they’re armed with grassroots support to convince state colleagues they have a substantial evidence to prove it’s popularity and show it’s the right thing to do.

Since it was enacted in 2013, the Community Protection Act has been the nation’s strictest sex offender enforcement, monitoring and verification program, cracking down on all three levels of offenders when it comes to their proximity to a school facility or child-friendly area, and reducing sex offender recidivism in Suffolk County by 81 percent. Ninety-eight percent of Level 2 and more than 94 percent of Level 3 registrants are in compliance with photograph requirements, what Bellone said is a significant increase from before the law took effect.

Through its partnership with Parents for Megan’s Law, the county has conducted more than 10,000 in-person home verification visits for all levels of sex offenders, by sending retired law enforcement to verify sex offenders’ work and home addresses and make sure their registry is accurate and up to date. More than 300 sex offenders have also been removed from social media under the law.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the act is a critical piece of legislation.

“The program has been incredibly successful, which is why sex offenders don’t like it.”

—Steve Bellone

“The numbers don’t lie, there’s a lot of hard evidence and data that shows this act has done precisely what it was designed to do: monitor sex offenders and make sure they’re not doing anything they’re not supposed to be doing,” Deputy Commissioner Justin Meyers said. “To date, I have never met a single resident in this county who didn’t support [it].”

Besides the sex offenders themselves, that is.

The act has made Suffolk County one of the more difficult places for registered sex offenders to live and, since its inception, Suffolk sex offenders have deemed its strict level of monitoring unconstitutional, arguing, and overall winning their cases in court that local law is not allowed to be stricter than the state law.

In 2015, the state Court of Appeals decided to repeal local residency restriction laws for sex offenders, claiming local governments “could not impose their own rules on where sex offenders live.”

In the prospective state legislation, Bellone hopes to close the sex offender loophole that would allow high-level sex offenders to be able to legally move into a home at close proximity to a school.

“The program has been incredibly successful, which is why sex offenders don’t like it,” Bellone said. “This is what we need to do to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect kids and families in our community. As a father of three young kids, this is very personal to me and I think that while we’ve tried to make government more efficient and reduce costs here, this is an example of the kind of thing government should absolutely be spending resources on.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, on right, with a community member who signed his petition urging state lawmakers to uphold the Community Protection Act. Photo from County Executive Bellone’s office

To conduct all the monitoring and fund educational resources offered to the community by Parents for Megan’s Law — teaching parents what to look out for and how to prevent their children from becoming victims — costs roughly $1 million a year, according to Bellone.

In addition to the residential restriction, Bellone is calling on the state to authorize the county to verify the residency and job sites of registered sex offenders, authorize local municipalities to keep a surveillance on homeless sex offenders, who represent less than 4 percent of the offender population in Suffolk County, and require them to call their local police department each night to confirm where they’re staying, and require an affirmative obligation of all sex offenders to cooperate and confirm information required as part of their sex offender designation.

“If people really knew this issue, I couldn’t see how they would oppose the Community Protection Act, because sex offenders are not a common criminal; there’s something fundamentally and psychologically wrong with somebody who commits sexual crime and we as a society have to understand that,” said St. James resident Peter , who held a “Protect Children” rally in the area last years. “Residents should know that the sexual abuse of children is out of control.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls are abused and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

“It is imperative that we, not only as a community, but as a state, make efforts to further ensure the safety of our children from sexual predators,” Anker said. “We must do everything in our power to ensure that this law is upheld and that’s why I’ve joined [Bellone] in calling on the New York State Legislature to consider an amendment to grant the county the ability to uphold it.”

To sign the petition, visit https://www.change.org/p/new-york-state-protect-our-children-support-the-community-protection-act.

Legislators not letting Bellone off hook

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Alex Petroski

A high stakes political finger pointing battle is ramping up in Suffolk County.

Top Suffolk County officials have been left to answer for the promotion of former Chief of Police James Burke, who in February pleaded guilty to charges of a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice, which occurred following the arrest of Smithtown man Christopher Loeb in 2012.

On Tuesday Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) held a press conference at the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead where he and fellow legislators, including Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), called for both County Executive Steve Bellone and District Attorney Tom Spota to resign from their positions.

On Thursday, Bellone joined the list of people including the legislators and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco calling for Spota to resign.

“For refusing to cooperate and work with federal law enforcement to prosecute crime in this county, for refusing and blocking federal law enforcement who were working on the Gilgo Beach serial murder case, for allowing violent criminals to go free to protect political friends, for lying about Jim Burke and conspiring to conceal his past…” Bellone said Thursday afternoon on the steps of Spota’s Hauppauge office. “Tom Spota, you must resign from this office so that we can begin the process of reforming this place governmentally and politically in a way that we can ensure this doesn’t happen again. If you fail to do so, I will call on the governor to exercise his authority under the constitution to remove you from this office.”

Trotta arrived while Bellone addressed the media, and interjected that reporters were speaking with a “co-conspirator.” Trotta reiterated his stance on Thursday that Bellone is as much a part of the political corruption problem in the county as Spota for his role in promoting Burke, and standing by him despite evidence of Burke’s troubled past.

“I have never said that I have never made mistakes in my public career,” Bellone said. “I’ve made many mistakes. But they have never, ever been with ill intent and I’ve learned from my mistakes and I don’t repeat them. When I promoted Jim Burke I consulted District Attorney Tom Spota. When I fired Jim Burke I did not consult Tom Spota.”

Bellone said he promoted Burke not because of recommendations from Spota or others, but because he was a “charismatic” and “impressive” person who made a memorable presentation.

Bellone handed a letter calling for Spota’s resignation to one of his employees inside the office, and Spota later met the media to respond Thursday.

“It’s a very, very difficult day for me,” Spota said in a video of that press conference. “He has delivered to me a letter asking for my resignation. I have absolutely no reason why I should resign, or should I be removed from office.”

Spota fired back at Bellone, suggesting his motivation was a “personal vendetta” against Spota for investigating and prosecuting people Bellone was close to.

On Tuesday, Bellone responded to Trotta, Cilmi and McCaffrey’s calls for his resignation through an email from a spokeswoman.

“Rob Trotta and Tom Cilmi are partisan politicians who just don’t get it,” the statement said. “This is not a partisan issue, this is about sweeping out a culture of abuse and corruption in the district attorney’s office.  I regret that I trusted the word of the district attorney regarding Jim Burke, and I have learned from that error in judgment.”

Trotta made it clear following Bellone’s comments that the county executive should not be let off the hook.

“It was an Academy Award winning performance,” Trotta said of Bellone’s press conference. “Forty-eight hours ago we were partisan, and we were political hacks. Now all of the sudden he responds to a Newsday article, he sees what’s going on and he tries to jump in front of it. It’s ridiculously absurd…He’s a total, unadulterated liar.”

Follow #TBRVotes on Twitter for up-to-the-minute posts on the election.

Suffolk County Executive
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, was running for re-election against Republican challenger Jim O’Connor. With 1,047 of 1,052 election districts reporting, Bellone was leading 57 percent to 43 percent.

4th Legislative District
Legislator Tom Muratore, a Republican, was looking for a fourth term against absentee Democratic challenger Jonathan D. Rockfeld. With all election districts reporting, Muratore had 74 percent of the vote.

5th Legislative District
Kara Hahn, the Democratic incumbent, was facing off against Republican challenger Donna Cumella. With 53 of 54 election districts reporting, Hahn had 63 percent of the vote to Cumella’s 37 percent.

6th Legislative District
Legislator Sarah Anker (D) faces a challenge from Republican Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent, in her quest for a third term. With all election districts reporting, Anker had 49.99 percent of the vote to Tricarico’s 49.98 percent. They are just one vote apart. Anker described her feelings as “cautiously optimistic.”

12th Legislative District
Leslie Kennedy, a Republican, was largely unopposed for re-election, against absentee Democratic challenger Adam Halpern. With 62 of 63 election districts reporting, Kennedy had 70 percent of the vote.

13th Legislative District
Legislator Rob Trotta (R) was running for another term in the Legislature against a familiar face, Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro. With 64 of 65 election districts reporting, Trotta had 71 percent of the vote.

16th Legislative District
Steve Stern, a Democratic legislator, wanted to win his final term in office against Republican attorney Tom McNally. With all election districts reporting, Stern won with 60 percent of the vote to McNally’s 40 percent.

18th Legislative District
Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D) was vying for a third term against Republican challenger Grant Lally. With all election districts reporting, Spencer won with 56 percent of the vote to Lally’s 44 percent.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor
Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was running for re-election against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko. With 294 of 296 election districts reporting, Romaine had 72 percent of the vote.

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent
Dan Losquadro, the Republican incumbent, was in a race for another term against Democratic challenger Jason Kontzamanys. With 294 of 296 election districts reporting, Losquadro had 69 percent of the vote.

Brookhaven Town, 1st Council District
Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, a Democrat from Port Jefferson Station, was facing off against Port Jefferson Station civic leader Ed Garboski, a Republican, in the race for town board.
With all election districts reporting, Cartright won with 56 percent of the vote.
She said, “I worked really hard. The community came together.”
If all election results stand, Cartright will be the only Democrat on the town board next year — her one Conservative and four Republican colleagues won re-election and her only Democratic colleague was ousted by a Republican.

Brookhaven Town, 2nd Council District
Jane Bonner, the Conservative councilwoman, was running against an absentee challenger, Democrat Andrew Berger, in her quest for a fifth term on the town board. With 46 of 47 election districts reporting, Bonner had 69 percent of the vote.

Brookhaven Town, 3rd Council District
Kevin LaValle (R) was hoping to win another term as a town councilman against absentee Democratic challenger Christian DeGeorge. With 50 of 51 election districts reporting, LaValle had 74 percent of the vote.

Huntington Town Board
Incumbents Susan Berland (D) and Gene Cook (I) were running for new terms on the town board against Democratic challenger Keith Barrett, the town’s deputy director of general services, and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson, a Northport school board trustee. In this race, the two candidates with the highest vote counts win seats. With all election districts reporting, Cook was on top with 27 percent of the vote to Berland’s 24 percent, Barrett’s 22 percent and Thompson’s 22 percent. Conservative Michael Helfer had 5 percent of the vote.
Cook said, “I can’t wait till tomorrow. … I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Smithtown Town Board
Councilmen Bob Creighton and Ed Wehrheim, both Republicans, faced challenges from Republican Lisa Inzerillo, who beat out Creighton in a Republican primary in September, and Democrat Larry Vetter. The two candidates with the most votes win seats on the town board in this race. With all 92 election districts reporting, Wehrheim took the lead with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Inzerillo (28 percent), Vetter (22 percent) and Creighton (20 percent).
Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer.
Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.” Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone file photo

It’s a real race for the Suffolk County executive spot this year. In one corner, you’ve got a seasoned incumbent, Steve Bellone (D), who has an ambitious vision for the region’s future. On the other side, you’ve got Republican Jim O’Connor, who knows finances and is in tune with the taxpayers’ pockets.

It was a tough call, but we say re-elect Bellone.

While Bellone’s judgement call in tapping James Burke — who recently resigned as the county’s police chief amid a federal investigation — gives us pause, the county executive has some big plans ahead. Those include better connecting Suffolk’s existing downtowns to its research institutions to create an attractive environment that entices millenials and employers to stay on the Island.

O’Connor said he sees it in a different light, saying it’s too expensive to live on Long Island and that county government needs to make it cheaper for residents, who are leaving in droves, to stay put. We appreciate a focus on finances, but we prefer Bellone’s long-term vision of the county’s future.

Now, if he could only prevent his dreams from getting in the way of action.

The county executive has grand plans to change a lot of things in Suffolk, from his proposal to connect those downtowns to his desire to increase the sewer network and improve water quality. But after trimming his salary, the size of government and his own body weight, there’s one more thing he must trim: his big goals, into more tamed, specific plans of action.

It’s great to have ideas that would transform the way we live on Long Island, but we can’t get there in just one leap, which our county executive’s rhetoric seems to demonstrate. We have to take small steps that add up to larger ones.

Bellone can do it. He demonstrates an understanding of complex issues — for instance, he knows the solution to the Island’s drug addiction issue is to work on prevention and treatment resources, not just add more cops on the streets. Simple improvements like getting all the county’s town supervisors in one room to agree on streamlining a building process in the county may seem small, but it’d make a huge difference in spurring economic growth, which would also feed into his larger plans.

And maybe he might want to add O’Connor to his administration. He seems to have some good ideas.

Vote for Bellone on Election Day.

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County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley

By Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said he hopes to continue his work addressing the county’s top issues, including affordable living, financial issues and wastewater management. But in order to do that, he first has to get past Republican challenger Jim O’Connor.

County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley
County Executive Steve Bellone photo by Giselle Barkley

O’Connor (R), a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Maroney O’Connor LLP, said he was hoping to unseat Bellone and get a handle of the county’s finances, which he argued are currently in bad shape.

“We are in massive amounts of debt,” O’Connor said. “Our taxes are a significant problem.”

Bellone said that he inherited a $500 million deficit when he arrived to his position in 2012, and during his short time in office he said he has been able to resolve a “legacy of issues” left to him — including minimizing that deficit.

O’Connor also said one of the issues looming over the next several years is the county’s handling of negotiations with police salary contracts.

“They are back-loaded contracts,” O’Connor said. “The real impact of these contracts won’t be felt until 2017 and 2018.”

O’Connor said he does not know how the county will pay for those salaries, and proposed to freeze them if he is elected.

“One of the things we can control is our labor costs,” O’Connor said.

Jim O'Connor photo by Giselle Barkley
Jim O’Connor photo by Giselle Barkley

Since his election, one of the examples Bellone heralded as evidence that he was working to streamline government efficiency and cut spending was his proposal — approved by public referendum last year — to merge the offices of the county comptroller and treasurer to cut costs. Bellone said it should save more than $1 million annually. He also said he has reduced the government by more than 1,100 positions.

Bellone said he is focused on shoring up the county’s water quality in his re-election bid.

“Unless we reverse the decades of decline that we’ve seen in our water quality, we are mortgaging our future,” Bellone said of why improving the county’s wastewater management is so crucial. Bellone celebrated SepticSmart Week over the summer, when he encouraged residents to stay informed on how to properly maintain their septic systems.

Both candidates discussed how they planned to fully utilize the county’s resources and make living in Suffolk more affordable.

To get there, Bellone said he wants to better utilize Stony Brook University, because “as Stony Brook University goes, so goes Suffolk County.” He said one the challenges and opportunities residents in the area have is enacting initiatives that better link Stony Brook University with other North Shore assets like Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

O’Connor said he and Bellone have a fundamental difference on how to go about dealing with affordable living in Suffolk County.

“I don’t agree that the way to do this is more [government] programs,” O’Connor said. “The way to do this and stimulate more economic growth is by turning things around and making sure Suffolk isn’t the second-most expensive place to do business and live in the United States. The only way to do that is by reducing the costs.”